What to do in the Cameron Highlands: tips for highlights, food & hotels
The beautiful Cameron Highlands are a welcome escape from Kuala Lumpur’s heat and high-rise buildings. As soon as you reach the Cameron Highlands, you are surrounded by rolling hills flanked by tea plantations and lush greenery and you might run into some small tourist towns. The Cameron Highlands and their beautiful nature and views are certainly worth a visit. In this article, I’ll give you my best tips for visiting the Cameron Highlands. I will talk (well, type 😉) you through getting there and I will give an overview of the most beautiful sights and highlights, the best restaurants and some hotels for every budget. Bear with me!
As you might know, Malaysia once was a colony of Great-Britain. They ‘discovered’ the Cameron Highlands in 1885, although local tribes were of course already living there. A British explorer, called William Cameron, was the first to officially record the area. He described the area as a plateau between the mountains. His notes weren’t that clear, so nothing really happened until the plateau was ‘rediscovered’ in the 1920s. Sir George Maxwell then proposed to turn the area into a resort.
It didn’t take much time before the British realized that apart from being a potential holiday destination, the fertile hillside soil was also ideal to grow tea on. In 1929, the Boh Tea Plantation was founded (see “What do do”). The Cameron Highlands is still the largest tea-producing region in Malaysia. Today, the area has become a popular tourist destination.
Cameron Highlands map with tips:
Travel information for the Cameron Highlands:
Climate in the Cameron Highlands: Because of the high altitude, it is a lot cooler here than it is in Kuala Lumpur. It might cool off even more in the evenings, so make sure to take a cardigan with you. During the day, the temperature averages between 20 and 25 degrees. It rains often in the Cameron Highlands, so you should probably take an umbrella with you as well.
Cameron Highlands’ best travel time is hard to determine. It is usually quite warm in May and June and colder from November through January. Even though it rains a lot in general, it is worst in October and November. It rains a little less during the summer months. Even during the dryer months, it still rains at least half of the days, so you will need a bit of luck. The best opportunities for a dry day, seem to be in May and June. However, I spent a wonderful sunny weekend there in March and it only rained in the evenings.
How many days to spend in the Cameron Highlands? In general, there isn’t that much to do in the Cameron Highlands. A full day tour will cover all the highlights. I stayed for two nights and one day, which was fine for me. If you like longer hikes, you might need more time.
How to get to the Cameron Highlands?
Excursion from Kuala Lumpur
There are a few different ways to get to the Cameron Highlands. The first one, to do the Cameron Highlands as a daytrip from Kuala Lumpur, is the least attractive one in my opinion. This should only be an option if you really only have one full day to spend. Since it’s at least four hours of driving each way, you will spend two thirds of your trip on a bus, and barely get any time in the Cameron Highlands.
Cameron Highlands by car
If you have more time to spend, you can go by car or bus. As far as I know, there are no trains or flights to the Cameron Highlands. There is little to no public transport in the Cameron Highlands, but the roads are well established, so you could rent a car. I wouldn’t really recommend doing this, because the roads are not equipped to handle as many cars as there currently are driving around. We often ended up getting stuck in traffic when, for example, our bus and a car had to pass each other on a very narrow road. So, I chose to visit by bus and booked a day tour in the Cameron Highlands. It was easy and there was no hassle.
Cameron Highlands by bus
The best option is thus to take a bus to the Cameron Highlands. Just buy a bus ticket online at Easybook.com, it’s easy and works, at least in our case, flawlessly. You can see which busses are running at which times and how many, and which, seats are still free. After booking, you can pay with Paypal and pick up your ticket at the bus station. You just have to make sure you get into the right bus, haha. The platforms are usually indicated on digital screens. As I said, easy peasy.
From Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands: Every day, there are several busses from different operators that drive from Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands. I went with CS Travel and that suited me fine. A ticket cost me 35 RYM and the ride took about 4.5 hours.
From Penang to the Cameron Highlands: Penang is the second most popular connection to the Cameron Highlands, after Kuala Lumpur. After my visit to the Cameron Highlands, I traveled to Penang. This took about 5 hours and, with CS Travel, cost 35 RYM. You would need about 4.5 to 5 hours to get from Penang to the Cameron Highlands and it would cost about 40 RYM. There are various providers and departure times.
From Ipoh to the Cameron Highlands: Ipoh, which actually has a lot of unique things to do itself, is the closest big city to the Cameron Highlands. It still takes 2 to 2.5 hours by bus because of the narrow mountain roads. As far as I know, there’s only one bus per day going to the Cameron Highlands, costing 20 MYR.
Foto from Booking.com
Where to stay in the Cameron Highlands?
As mentioned before, the Cameron Highlands is a plateau, situated between some impressive mountains. There are three important towns in the Cameron Highlands: Ringlet, Tanah Rata and Brinchang. There are hotels and restaurants in all of them, so it doesn’t really matter where you stay. I ended up in Tanah Rata, situated in the middle of the Cameron Highlands. My bus stopped there (and my bus to Penang would leave from there as well), so it was convenient. There are plenty of hotels in all three of the towns, so I have some suggestions for you!
Tip: Book your accommodation in the Cameron Highlands well in advance. When I started looking, a few days before we would arrive, I didn’t have many options left.
€ – There are many backpacker accommodations, hostels as well as cheap guesthouses with double rooms, in the Cameron Highlands. Hillview Inn is located in the hills at only a few minutes’ walk from the center of Tanah Rata and offers rooms with balconies. You can already get a room for as little as €16. Check the current prices here. Another popular option is Orchid Haven. This guesthouse focuses on the social aspect of travel and organizes cooking classes and tours. Some rooms have a private balcony. You can already get a room for about €21. Check the current prices here.
€€ – Hotel Rosa Passadena is located in Brinchang, nearby some strawberry farms and a weekend night market. Breakfast is included in the room rate, but Wi-Fi isn’t, so take that into account. You can get a room for about €35. Check the current prices here. In the hills surrounding Tanah Rata lies the Century Pines Resort, a four-star resort with luxurious rooms and a fitness center. Breakfast and Wi-Fi are included in the room rate and you can already get a room for about €36. Check the current prices here.
€€€- The most well known luxury hotel in the area is the Cameron Highlands Resort, a five-star accommodation in a colonial building in Tanah Rata situated next to a golf course. At the spa, you can book massages and other treatments. The rooms are over 37 square meters in size. Bathrobes, breakfast and WiFi are included in the price. You can already get a room for €103. Check the current prices here.
What to do in the Cameron Highlands
Booking a Cameron Highlands tour is super easy. There are a lot of travel agencies in Tanah Rata (and I’m sure that’s the case in the other towns as well) that offer all kinds of similar tours. Walk in, ask about available tours and book right there and then. I booked a full day tour with a tour agency called Cameron Secrets and paid 80 RYM per person. They expected us at the office at 8.45 in the morning and we got back around 16.30. Fortunately, the office was located right in front of my hotel. I was pleased with the tour we did. It was a little touristy, but the whole area is, so it’s not like I expected anything else. I had a really nice day and who am I to complain about a tour that cheap? 😉
Mount Batu Brinchang
Mount Batu Brinchang is the highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands that can be reached by car. The road leading up the mountain is actually the highest road on the mainland of Malaysia! The mountain is about 2.032 meters high and there’s a viewpoint on the top.
The altitude combined with the humid climate is ideal for a lot of moss growth, which really gives the forest a Jurassic Park vibe. You can visit the forest independently or with a guide, since there are plenty of tours to the Mossy Forrest. You could also hike to the top of the mountain via a walkwayand enjoy the view of the surround mountains
BOH tea plantation
As I mentioned, tea plantations are a very important part of the Cameron Highlands. The most important and largest plantation you can visit is the BOH tea plantation. This plantation dates from 1929 and was founded by J. A. Russel, who saw a big opportunity given the Brits’ love for tea and Malaysia being a British colony. You could visit the plantations and the tea factory by yourself or with a guide. Next to the BOH tea plantation you can find a restaurant with a fantastic view over the tea fields.
The Time Tunnel is a small museum about the history of the Cameron Highlands which gives you an idea of how people’s lives there used to look like. Beforehand, I was a little afraid that the museum would be a tourist trap, but I found it surprisingly nice to visit. I learned some more about the disappearance of Jim Thompson, which I found interesting as well. Visiting the museum costs about 5 MYR.
Strawberries are probably the best-known product of the Cameron Highlands. The strawberries originally didn’t grow in the area. They were introduced by nostalgic Brits. In the colonial times, the Britons living there only went back to their homeland every eight years, so in order to feel ‘at home’, they tried to make the Cameron Highlands as English as possible. They established golf fields and tea plantations, and planted roses and strawberries. If you visit the strawberry farms, you can pick your own berries or order a fresh smoothie (ask them not to add sugar!). There are different farms open for visitors.
Sam Poh tempel
The Buddhist temple of Sam Pah is located on a hill in Brinchang. The temple was built fairly recently, in 1972, but it is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. The temple mainly targets the large Chinese population in the country. I found the temple quite nice and it was fun to get a glimpse of the religion and the culture of the locals.
Restaurants in the Cameron Highlands
My only two suggestions are restaurants in Tanah Rata, because I didn’t visit any restaurants in the other towns.
Restoran Kumar is an Indian restaurant on the main road of Tanah Rata. It looked nice and it was quite busy, which is always a good sign. The first day, I ordered butter chicken with rice and naan for dinner, and right before we left, I had roti chanai with banana, Nutella and honey for breakfast. Dinner and a drink cost me about 20 RYM.
Address: Jalan Besar, Tanah Rata, 39000 Yanah Rata, Pahang
The restaurant Barracks was located close to my hotel and served, among other things, some Western dishes. I really felt like eating something ‘normal’ after a few days of strictly Malaysian and Indian food, so I ordered a very tasty pasta with salmon which, including a drink, cost me about 23 RYM.
Address: No 1, Jalan Gereja, Tanah Rata, 39000 Tanah Rata, Pahang
Other destinations in Malaysia
Hopefully, the Cameron Highlands will be just one of the many areas you visit during your round trip through Malaysia. You should definitely experience the hip city life in Kuala Lumpur, get to know the culture a little better and try delicious local food in Penang, make your dreams tropical dreams come true in Langkawi, and visit Taman Nagara, which is the largest and oldest rainforest in the country.
These were my personal tips for visiting the Cameron Highlands. I hope they were useful!
What did you like best in the Cameron Highlands?
Pin for later: